Thursday, August 29, 2013

FW: Martin Chemnitz' Church Order on Election, Examination and Ordination of Pastors




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:34 AM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: Martin Chemnitz' Church Order on Election, Examination and Ordination of Pastors



Chemnitz put together the Church Order for his Duke (Julius) for Braunschweig=Woelfenbuettel in 1568/69. We've been working on publishing this in English for quite some time (thanks especially to Jacob Corzine and Andrew Smith). Here's a nice section on the office of the ministry.


Pastor H. 



On ministers of the church, how they are to be received into service


Accordingly, no one should be called or appointed to be a pastor, preacher, chaplain, or other minister of the church, unless he first bring believable, appropriate testimony regarding his birth, ancestry, behavior, deeds, and what he has retained or avoided in doctrine and life. He must further also be first examined by our appointed theologians, first and foremost concerning the following necessary points, thoroughly, privately, and in Latin. Subsequently, in public, in the presence of our appointed theologians, he must be heard and approved of preaching a sermon. And, at any rate, things shall proceed regarding him and he shall be dealt with on the basis of the following regulations.


On the election and examination of minister of the churchs


It is true that, among all the offices that are laid upon mankind by divine order, no more difficult office is found than that of properly governing the churches of the Son of God. Thus should much more seriousness and diligence be applied in seeking a minister of the church as one may dangerously err if one commends a church to be governed by a man who is stained with false teaching or shamed with offensive and rude living. Thus we command that no one should enter into this divine office without a proper call. Accordingly, as often and as frequently as our appointed consistory should desire and appoint a minister of the church, they should primarily pay good diligent attention to three points:


First, to the doctrine of the minister of the church, what type of religious doctrine he has learned, and how he is inclined toward the true doctrine.

Second, to his life, how he, since his youth, has conducted his life, and what type of life he leads in the current time.

Third, to his age, whether he be too young, for Paul says [I Ti 5:22; 3:6], „Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands (that is, electing someone to church's office), indeed he must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."


For this reason, if someone, whose doctrine and life, customs and manners are unknown, should offer himself for service in the church, he should first of all, before he is admitted and allowed into the examination, present and bring forth public, believable testimony and documentation concerning his origin and life, either from his teachers, or from the secular authority under which he has been living, or from his colleagues with whom he has served in church office.


Then, in so far as the same testimonies are proper, he shall be heard and examined afterwards concerning the articles of our Christian faith by means of the holy, divine, prophetic, and apostolic Scriptures, and the Augsburg Confession. But he shall be heard primarily concerning the articles, in which at this time there is division and fighting not only with the papacy and false religions and faiths of others, but also with all manner

of sects. For this purpose, we have had outlined a brief register of questions regarding these same articles. Our theologians should ascertain the view of the one being examined regarding these articles, one after another, as follows.

On God

Whether there is one God? And whence does one know that there is one God?

Whether there is only a single God?

Whether in the one divine essence there are three distinct persons?

What is the particular attribute of each of the three persons?

On the Son of God

Whether the Son of God is true, eternal God, born of His Heavenly Father before the creation of the world, from eternity, of the same essence, power, and majesty?

Regarding the Holy Spirit.

Whether the Holy Spirit is a true, eternal God, who proceeds from the Father and the Son from eternity?

On the angels

Whether the angels were created by God or existed from eternity?

Whether the angels were all good after their creation and remained steadfast with God?

What is the office of the good angels?

On the creation of the world

Whether this world was created in the beginning by God from nothing or existed from eternity and will thus remain for eternity?

Whether there is only a single world and no others?

On the fall of man

Whether man was created in the beginning by God as good, righteous and pious?

Whether he persisted in such goodness and righteousness?

Whether he after the fall, when he sinned and lost the Holy Spirit, still retained enough virtue and power that he by his natural abilities may turn himself to God, and become righteous and saved?

What original sin is, and whether it stretches over all who stem from Adam by natural birth?

On the incarnation of the Son of God

Whether the Son of God was at his designated time a true man, conceived of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary and born of her(as the holy prophets promised)?

Whether Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary, is one person, yet with two distinct natures, namely the divine and the human nature?

What office the Son of God fulfilled here on earth and what office did he establish?

Whether He came to give a new law and merely to set forth an example of a divine life?

On the ecclesiastical or preaching office

Whether the preaching office is the keys of the kingdom of heaven and a tool through which the Holy Spirit not only gathers the church of the Son of God from all peoples, but also grants and confirms faith into the heart, and also preserves believers in obedience?

On the Law

How and in which way is the law of Moses done away with and lifted?

Whether one is responsible for being obedient to the Ten Commandments which are a brief summary of the entire divine law?

Whether the obedience which we are able to perform here in this life toward the Ten Commandments attains forgiveness of sins from God for a man, and makes him righteous?

Which is the correct use of the Ten Commandments or the divine law?

On the Gospel

What the use of this term 'gospel' is in the church?

What is the proper distinction between the law and the gospel?

Whether the gospel was only first preached by Christ the Son of God when Christ came into this world and sent out His apostles into the entire world, or whether it has also been preached since the beginning of the world?

On the justification of man

Whether man is justified, i.e. absolved and freed from sins and unrighteousness, through the merit of his work or only through faith in Jesus Christ, who alone has merited the pardon of sins through his suffering and death?

Thus if the merit of our works does not obtain for us the forgiveness of sins, why should we then do good works?

Is it also correct to say that faith alone makes us righteous?

Is it also correct to say that good works are necessary for salvation?

Since we have the remission of sins through faith alone, on account of Jesus Christ, is it also necessary that we be renewed through the Holy Spirit and here in this life begin to do good works until we become completely pure and holy in the life to come?

On baptism

Whether baptism, which was begun by John, and commanded by Christ, is necessary for our salvation?

Whether baptism is merely an external sign of the inner baptism, or rather also a tool of means through which we are reborn and renewed in Christ by the Holy Spirit?

Whether one should also baptize children?

On the Holy Supper of the Lord Christ

Whether the bread and the wine in the supper of the Lord Christ are, as his word says (Take and eat, this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood, etc.), the proper and true body and blood of Christ, and whether the same are also truly, essentially, and presently[1]distributed through the wine and bread?

Whether the bread is changed into the body and the wine into the blood of Christ such that there remains neither bread nor wine, but only the forms of the bread and wine?

Whether the unworthy also receives the body and blood of Christ in the supper?

Whether one should make a mass out of the supper of Christ, in which one sacrifices the body and blood of Christ for the sins of the living and the dead?

Whether one should regard the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ such that one thereby holds no proclamation of the death of Christ and does not distribute it to the church, according to the institution of Christ, but encloses it in a tabernacle or carries it carried about in a monstrance?

On the absolution

What is the absolution?

Whether one should use the common and also the particular or private absolution?

To what end does the absolution serve and of what benefit is it?

On repentance

Whether a person who after baptism has fallen into mortal sin and blasphemy, may come again to the grace of God and the remission of sins through repentance?

Which are the proper parts of Christian repentance?

On prayer

Whether one should only call on God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit or also through the saints?

Since the Turks and the Jews also call on God, what is the difference between these and the proper Christian form?

On the Christian church

Which is the true Christian church, and how does one recognize it?

Can one obtain the remission of sins and eternal life outside of the proper Christian church?

On marriage

Whether the estate of marriage is instituted by God or man?

Whether the estate of marriage may be forbidden to any class by human regulation?

On temporal authority

Whether the temporal authority is established and instituted by God?

Whether a Christian may in good conscience bear the office of temporal authority?


Many more points and articles of Christian doctrine might indeed be listed, which in part are also treated by the Augsburg Confession, and in part treated extensively in the writings of the theologians associated with the Augsburg Confession. In the previously mentioned articles approximately all points in which we are at odds with our opponents at this time have in general been alluded to. The theologi examinatores (theologian examiners) will know well how to deal in these matters according to the gifts God has granted them and according to the evidence and demonstration of the one to be examined.

They will know what they may ask and investigate in the examination regarding the Holy Scriptures, and also the Augsburg Confession. Thus at this time we shall let the articles numbered above suffice.


Now, after he has been examined on these points and articles, and, as noted here, has answered in a Christian manner according to the direction of the Holy Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures, also the Augsburg Confession, our theologians and councilors shall not immediately send him to the church for which he is intended. Rather, because Paul requires of a minister of the church that he be apt to teach, so shall the one examined be required to prepare a sermon on a topic proposed to him by our theologians. In this way one may observe not only his erudition, but also his speaking and gesture during the sermon, and may inform him of that which is objectionable therein.


Furthermore, it is also our will and view that a minister of the church shall be forced on no church against its will, without especially proper and compelling cause. Therefore, after an individual who desires to be in church service has given his certain testimony, both to right doctrine and to honorable life, and he has thus been found apt to teach, before and prior to his being assigned to that church, he shall be sent to the superintendent

of the same district and to the official, with orders to first hold some public sermons in the presence of the superintendent in the church in which he is to lead and be assigned. If then the superintendent notes that the church of that place bears no abhorrence to the proposed minister of the church, rather may well suffer him in the churchly office, the superintendent shall, together with the official, report this in writing to our church council, so that what is further to be dealt with in this matter may be done in an orderly fashion by the same, our church council. And thus the church may have and hold her vocation also in an orderly manner.


Thereupon, and as soon as the minister of the church have handed over his testimonies by the superintendent and official to our consistory, and been approved by the church for which he is intended, he shall be admonished in approximately the following manner:


That he first of all consider with the utmost diligence and sincerely take to heart with what great care, effort, diligence, and labor he shall accept and carry out the governance of the church.


For the church is the bride of Christ, of the Son of God, which Christ so sincerely loves that he, in order to obtain for her salvation and eternal life, came down from heaven

and burdened himself with all sorts of human frailties, also shed His own blood and took upon Himself the most disgraceful death, so that he might redeem her from death. Therefore the minister of the church shall exercise his best possible diligence that he instruct the church not with human dreams, but with divine, heavenly doctrine, whereby she be awakened through the Holy Spirit, to hold with loyalty and faith to the Lord Christ, her bridegroom, and persevere therein steadfast and spotless, according to the example of Paul [2 Corinthians 11:2], who says: "I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ."


And the minister of the church shall always consider with the utmost seriousness where something in respect to the church is omitted or prevented through his laziness, negligence, failure, perversion, or offense. For this, Our Lord and God, the Heavenly Father, will require her blood from the hand of the minister of the church.


In this regard he shall preach and teach the holy, prophetic and apostolic scriptures, which were confirmed by divine, heavenly miracles, for they are a lamp to our feet (as the psalm states [Psalm 119:105]) and a light on our path.


And because the explanation of such articles, as, regarding matters of the faith, have been in contention in these times, is contained and set forth briefly and clearly according to the direction of the true catholic understanding of the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures in the Augsburg Confession and in attached declarations of our theologians, thus the needs of the church office demand that the minister of the church faithfully carry out his teaching in such articles according to the explanation and content of said confession.


Also, it is incumbent upon the office and vocation of the minister of the church that he not only serve the church with pure divine doctrine, but also with a good example and model, also that he ornament the doctrine, to the best of his ability, with his honorable life. Thus necessity additionally demands that everyone who undertakes to rule in the church, see that, by the grace of God, that his life takes on this form, that not only all his affairs and business, but also his speech, attire, demeanor, indeed also all his words and deeds are honor and virtue, so that what he builds with one hand he not tear down with the other and corrupt the church both with punishable vice and offensive example.


He shall also note that the words of Christ apply to him above all other men, Matthew 18. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck

and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.


And the minister of the church shall most diligently re-read and often repeat the epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus, that he learn from them how he shall maintain himself both in doctrine and life, also how his own household is to be, and how he should govern it.


He shall also diligently observe our church order, as printed heretofore in this book, which we have instituted, and be obedient to his superintendents in their office and commands from us, and where there is a difference or misunderstanding between him and other of our minister of the churchs, officials, subjects, and attached people, he shall bring the matter to the superintendents or our consistory and seek a decision from them. But where such dispute has been created that those noted do not render a decision, and the matter instead must properly be remitted, he shall for this reason accept and acknowledge as just the decision and consequences to which we will direct him, as we according to the following are free to do. And he must be satisfied without refusal but with finality, and without appeal, and not quit his church office without our previous knowledge and will.


During the time which he occupies an office and service

in the church, he is a partaker of all the freedoms of citizenship, and of our land, no less than our subjects. Thus he shall advance what is to our benefit and warn of any dangers. And he shall promise and consent, by an oath with his own hand, to abide by all such things.


After this has been done he shall be ordained according to the order prepared by Doctor Luther, and first then, in the manner that follows, presented.

The form of ordination follows, as Dr. Martin Luther arranged it[2]


First, Veni sancte Spiritus[3] is sung and the collect is read. Then the superintendent reads the following texts:

Thus writes St. Paul in the first epistle to Timothy in the third chapter:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit und fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.[4]

Thus St. Paul admonishes the elders of the church at Ephesus Acts 20:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own

selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.[5]

Here you hear that we as bishops, that is those who are and should be called as preachers and pastors, have no command to guard geese or cows, but the church, which God purchased with His own blood, that we should feed it with the pure word of God, also be watchful and see that wolves and mobs do not break in among the poor sheep. For this reason he calls it a noble task. Also, personally, we should live disciplined and honorably, and keep and raise our house, wife, children and servants in a Christian fashion.

If you are now prepared to do this, so say, "Yes."

Then the superintendent, and the other ministers of the word who are present, shall place their hands upon the head of the ordinand. Then he shall say:

Let us pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven etc.

Merciful God, heavenly Father, You said to us through the mouth of Your beloved Son, our Lord

Jesus Christ: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.[6]At this Your divine command, we sincerely pray that You would richly give Your Holy Spirit to these Your servants, together with us and all those who are called to Your word, that we with great crowds would be Your Evangelists, remain true and steadfast against the devil, the world and the flesh etc., that thereby Your name may be hallowed, Your kingdom increased, and Your will be accomplished. Do also finally direct and make an end of the detestable abomination of the pope and Mohammed and all enemies of Your Christians together with other mobs which blaspheme Your name, destroy Your kingdom, and oppose Your will. Such is our prayer (because You have commanded, taught, and assured it) - do graciously hear us, as we believe and trust through Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns in eternity. Amen.

So now go out and shepherd the flock of Christ that is commended to you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, not for shameful gain, but from your heart; not domineering over the people, but become examples to the flock. And thus, when the Archshepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.[7]

Benedicat vobis Dominus, ut faciatis fructum multum. Amen. (The Lord bless you, so that you may bring forth much fruit. Amen.)

But if the community, as the parish children, refuses a man with articulated and honorable cause, then no one should be attached to them against their will; only if the refusal is frivolous and made without honorable cause. To this our appointed church councils should pay especially close attention. Thus they should not let a servant, competent and approved for the ministerium, fall or come into contempt on account of frivolous things, without articulated cause, to the shame of the ministerium, but rather inform the congregation, correcting its misunderstanding and ignorance.

When all of this has happened in an orderly manner, each such minister of the church shall be presented, also recommended and installed, by our appointed special superintendents and officials in the form which follows.

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[1] warhafftig / wesentlich und gegenwertig.

[2] The following order corresponds to column 'R', WA 38,423ff. (see the translation in AE 53, 124ff.). Column 'R' represents the ordination agenda used in Wittenberg, and is dated to 1539.

[3] Wackernagel I, 160. Cf. LSB 497, Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord.

[4] 1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV.

[5] Acts 20:28-31, ESV.

[6] Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2.

[7] 1 Peter 5:2-4.

FW: On the Altar Guild




Feed: Gottesdienst Online
Posted on: Thursday, August 22, 2013 8:47 AM
Author: Fr BFE
Subject: On the Altar Guild


A new altar guild member here related her first "actual" experience as part of our altar guild. It reinforces my notion that it is of critical importance for pastors to spend time with the altar guild.  This society is the most important group in a Christian congregation.   It is the first group to which any new pastor should pay attention. More important than the board of elders or trustees; even more important than the church council itself is the altar guild.  

Here's what the lady wrote: "Even tho I can't explain why, I found myself holding back tears of awe as I helped clean the blood of Christ. I've always known that every Sunday the body and blood of Christ is in our church, and even that I take the sacrament, but never before have I felt so humbled and grateful. I'm very happy that I accepted the invitation to join altar guild and eternally grateful for the reason it exists."

Amen to that.

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FW: The weird and wacky history of Confirmation, Part 1: When there was no Confirmation – the western Church before Nicaea




Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Friday, August 23, 2013 9:15 AM
Author: Norm Fisher
Subject: The weird and wacky history of Confirmation, Part 1: When there was no Confirmation – the western Church before Nicaea


Pastor Surburg has started a series looking at the history of Confirmation in the church; the first part was posted on is blog here and duplicated below:


confirmation3In the popular imagination today, there are few things that are more "Lutheran" than the Rite of Confirmation.  Generations of Lutherans have donned a white gown, and in front of a church full of family and friends they have confessed the faith and vowed faithfulness in Confirmation. Then they have received the Sacrament of the Altar for the first time.

However, upon further reflection, it is remarkable that Confirmation exists at all – much less in the Lutheran Church.  The history of Confirmation is a weird and wacky story that twists and turns in unexpected ways.  In a series of posts I am going to look at the history of Confirmation in the western Church up to the Reformation, and then in the Lutheran Church up to our own day.  When we think about the status of Confirmation in our own pastoral practice, it is important to understand how Confirmation as it exists today in the Lutheran Church came into existence.   This information puts us in a better position to evaluate Confirmation itself.

The story of Confirmation begins in the rites that accompanied the administration of Holy Baptism in the early Church.  The Romans considered bathing to be one of the quintessential features of civilized "Roman" life. In fact, "the bathhouse was produced as a new cultural form in the cities of Italy in the second century BC and became the hallmark of Roman urbanism at locations across Italy and the western Empire until, by the second century AD, it was impossible to imagine that anyone in the Empire did not bathe in a bathhouse." [endnote 1] Bathing was ubiquitous in the Roman world, and wherever there was bathing, people anointed themselves with olive oil.  Leonel Mitchell surveys the evidence and concludes that "to a Roman or Hellenistic Greek anointing would be associated with washing as naturally as we associate soap with water. When a Roman went to the bath he took a towel and oil." [endnote 2]

The New Testament says that at Jesus' baptism (Lk 3:21-22) he was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:18; Act 10:38).  It also says that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (ὑμεῖς χρῖσμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου; 1 Jn 2:20) and that they have been sealed with the Spirit (Eph 1:13; see also 2 Cor 1:22).  In a letter filled with baptismal language 1 Pet 2:9 describes Christians as a royal priesthood – a description that calls to mind the fact that kings (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:12-13) and priests (Leviticus 8:12, 30) were anointed.  The cultural setting and language of Scripture made it almost inevitable that anointing with oil would be a part of the administration of Holy Baptism.  We cannot say how soon this began.  Regarding this first factor, Aidan Kavanagh has observed, "One can only note that more was involved in the bathing process then, and hence more was implied in the bathing metaphor when used by antique authors, than is the case today." [endnote 3]  With the respect to the second he cogently observes that we must question, "whether it took communities prepared to be ritually literal about washing metaphors up to a century and a half to become similarly disposed regarding unction." [endnote 4]

Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit works through baptism (Jn 3:3, 5; Tit 3:5-6; 1 Cor 6:11).  However, one biblical text held the early Church's attention as she reflected upon baptism and the gift of the Spirit. In Acts 8:4-8 Philip goes to Samaria and proclaims the Gospel.  The chapter then goes on to say: "Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17 ESV).  The text highlights the unique circumstances within salvation history of the Gospel's advance beyond the Jews to the Samaritans (see Acts 10:44-48 where again unusual circumstances related to baptism and the Spirit mark the Gospel's advance to the Gentiles).  Through this action the apostles recognized the Samaritan mission as part the apostolic Church.  The laying on of hands by those authorized by God in order to give the Spirit would become the feature that strongly influenced the Church's ongoing baptismal practice.

We lack explicit evidence about the ritual actions that accompanied the administration of baptism in the western Church prior to Tertullian (155- ca 220 A.D.), Cyprian (ca 200-258) and (if accepted as genuine) the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus.  However it is very likely that they arose in the first and second centuries.  In the judicious candor that typifies his scholarship, J.D.C. Fisher concludes: "For the moment it is sufficient to observe that there is no reason to suppose that at the time of writing these further baptismal ceremonies were recent innovations.  If they were established customs by the second decade of the third century, they must have had their origin back in the second century, although how far back it is difficult to prove.  But the clear evidence of these ceremonies in the early third century has to be set against the failure of the second century writers to supply evidence as unmistakable of their existence in the period between the end of the end of the apostolic age and the time of Tertullian and Hippolytus." [endnote 5]

Kavanagh states the case in a stronger, but not unwarranted fashion: "This should alert one to the probability that when the New Testament texts refer, especially in passing, to 'baptism' they mean something ritually larger and increasingly more sophisticated and complex than the water bath alone.  If this is not presumed, then it becomes impossible to account for how rites particularly related to  the Spirit and in closer ritual contact with the water bath than proclamation prior to it, suddenly appear as though from nowhere during the second and third centuries.  Nor does it explain why these rites quickly become accepted as traditional in churches obsessed with fidelity to the gospel and apostolic tradition." [endnote 6]

The administration of Holy Baptism in Tertullian's North African setting involved baptism in water, anointing (On Baptism 7), signing with the cross (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 8), and imposition of the hand (On Baptism 8). [endnote 7]  Tertullian explained the anointing in relation to priesthood: "After that we come up from the washing and are anointed with the blessed unction, following that ancient practice by which, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses, there was a custom of anointing them for priesthood with oil out of a horn" (On Baptism 7). [endnote 8]  This  explanation of anointing in relation to priesthood (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) will be one the dominant ones found in the western Church.

Tertullian is very explicit that the Spirit is given through the imposition of the hand in prayer: "Next follows the imposition of the hand in benediction, inviting and welcoming the Holy Spirit" (On Baptism 8). [endnote 9]  In a corresponding fashion he says that the Spirit is not given through the water: "Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit; but in the water, under (the witness of) the angel, we are cleansed, and prepared for the Holy Spirit" (On Baptism 6). [endnote 10]  At the same time, in his writings Tertullian can speak about how the soul is "renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above" (Treatise on the Soul 41). [endnote 11]

Lampe has described Tertullian's theology as confused because of it seems to deny "that the Spirit is actually bestowed upon the believer at the moment of his regeneration." [endnote 12]  However Fisher is most likely more accurate when he counters: "It may be freely granted that blessings which Tertullian ascribed to baptism and to the hand laying respectively are from the theological point of view in the last resort indivisible.  But in his day both acts formed part of a rite which was a single whole, in which baptism in water, unction, consignation and imposition of the hand followed one another without any appreciable interval of time between." [endnote 13]  As he goes on to say, "In short, then, the evidence as a whole points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that in Tertullian's view baptism by itself by the operation of the Holy Spirit conferred eternal salvation and remission of sins, while the subsequent hand-laying conveyed the gift of the Holy Spirit to the initiates … To say, however, that the convert received the Holy Spirit at the hand-laying after baptism does not carry with it the implication that he had been untouched by the Spirit up to that moment.  The baptism which he had received was not a mere water-baptism but a baptism of water and the Spirit." [endnote 14]

Cyprian's writings demonstrate a very similar ritual structure, a little later in North Africa, as was found in Tertullian: baptism in water, anointing, imposition of the hand, and (perhaps) signing with the cross.  Like Tertullian he attributed the gift of the Spirit to the imposition of the hand: "They who are baptized in the church are brought to the prelates of the church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of the hand obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord's seal [signaculo dominico]" (Letter 73 to Jubaianus, 9). [endnote 15] In this section of the letter, Cyprian is the first writer to cite Acts 8 as justification for this practice. [endnote 16]

Yet also like Tertullian, Cyprian clearly believed that the Spirit was active in the water of baptism as it gives forgiveness of sins and spiritual birth.  For example, he writes in Letter74.5, "Furthermore a person is not born again through the imposition of the hand when he receives the Holy Spirit, but in baptism so that having first been born he may receive the Spirit." [endnote 17] And so Fisher is justified when he says, "In conclusion, then, Cyprian's doctrine of initiation, virtually identical with that of Tertullian, requires a liturgical practice where baptism, anointing, consignation and hand-laying with prayer are seen to be an organic whole. There is no ground for disagreement as to the spiritual blessings conferred by the whole rite; the difficulty arises when the attempt, unavoidable in the circumstances of today in the West, is made to distribute the blessings among the particular moments in the rite." [endnote 18]

Tertullian knew of infant baptism but argued that, baptism should be delayed because children were more likely to sin after baptism, and thus require the rigors of public penance and reconciliation to the Church (On Baptism, 18).  Cyprian, on the other hand, was a strong supporter of infant baptism (Letter 64).  Cyprian also provides evidence that children, and even infants, were receiving the Sacrament of the Altar (On the Lapsed 3.9, 25) and is the first witness that after baptism they received the Sacrament.

In To Quirinius 3.25 Cyprian writes, "In the Gospel according to John: Unless you have been reborn by water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. For what has been born of flesh is flesh, and what has been born of spirit is spirit. Similarly in another place: 'Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.'" [endnote 19] For Cyprian the reception of the Holy Baptism and reception of the Sacrament of the Altar are linked with one another. He states, "The Holy Spirit is received through baptism, and therefore drinking the cup of the Lord is attained by the baptized and those who have received the Holy Spirit. . . . The cup of the Lord is always thirsted for and drunk in church" (Letter 63.8). [endnote 20]

Holeton has commented about Cyprian and infant communion:

Cyprian give us what appears to be an already developed theology of the practice as well as several illustrations of infant communion.  First, he bears witness to the coupling of John 3:5 ('Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit …') and John 6:53 ('Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man…') as a single logion in the traditio fidei, establishing what is necessary for participation in the Christian community. Infants are as capable of baptism as are adults and share equally in the divine gift given in baptism. Having thus been baptized in the Spirit the newborn drink thereon from the Lord's cup, and are thus both 'baptized and sanctified' ('baptizandum et santificandum'). [endnote 21]

From this period on, infant communion after baptism and anointing was a standard initiation pattern in Christianity for more than a thousand years.

In the past, the so-call Apostolic Tradition attributed to Hippolytus (ca. 215) has been cited as evidence for baptismal practice in Rome at the beginning of the third century.  There, after baptism the (21.18) the individual is anointed by the presbyter (21.19).  Next the bishop lays his hand on him and according to the oldest manuscript (Latin) prays, "Lord God, who have made them worthy to receive the forgiveness of sins through the laver of regeneration of the Holy Spirit, send on them your grace, that they may serve you according to your will" (21.21). [endnote 22]  The later Boharic, Arabic and Ethiopic manuscripts have "make them worthy to be filled with the/your Holy Spirit" instead of "send on them your grace." [endnote 23]  Then the bishop anointsthe baptized (21.22) and signs them on the forehead (21.23). This double anointing, with the hand laying and second anointing done by the bishop, matches what will be found in Rome in a later period.

While the Apostolic Tradition has in the past been used as evidence for pre-Nicene baptismal practice in Rome, this now seems unlikely.  The attribution to Hippolytus is based on weak evidence and is in no way certain for a number of significant reasons. [endnote 24]  It seems more likely that the text is a conflation of several different traditions from a number of periods and that its final form probably reflects a fourth century setting. [endnote 25]  Since the Verona (Latin and earliest) manuscript dates to fifth century Italy, the text provides important information for understanding later practice in Italy.

I would like to make four observations about this pre-Nicene evidence.  The first is that we do not find the rite of Confirmation in this early period.  There is not yet, as the medieval Church came to understand it, a separate action by the bishop which bestowed the Spirit in order to provide some new or additional gift for someone who is already a Christian through baptism.   "Confirmation" exists in this period neither at the terminological or conceptual level. Instead, there is simply the single rite of Holy Baptism through which a Christian received rebirth and the gift of the Spirit.  The focus is Holy Baptism – nothing more and nothing less. Confirmation was not instituted by Christ like Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and the Sacrament of the Altar and so we do not find the early Church administering it from the beginning.

Second, we see here the beginning of a trend that will run through the whole history of the early and medieval Church.  Acts 8 becomes the basis for the belief that the laying on of hands by a bishop (or presbyter in many cases) bestows the Holy Spirit in the rite of Holy Baptism.  As we have seen in Tertullian and Cyprian, this does not mean that the work of the Spirit giving rebirth has been absent in the water of baptism.  Instead, it indicates that the laying on of hands is part of the baptismal rite that bestows the Spirit in a unique way.

The descriptive account of what happened with the apostles Peter and John in Samaria becomes justification, authorization and prescription for those in the Office of the Holy Ministry to do the same.  The problem is that the text contains neither command nor the promise that this will be true for others.  While the Scriptures speak about the water of baptism and the command and promises attached to it, they never say anything in regard to the laying on of hands in baptism in order to give the Spirit.

Third, it must be conceded that while the exegetical basis for the claim about the hand laying is inadequate, the idea itself of the Spirit being given more than once or for more than one purpose is not contrary to Scripture.   A reading of John 20 and Acts 2 demonstrates that this is possible.  These two texts gave plausibility to a multistage reception of the Spirit in the rite of Holy Baptism.

Finally, while the evidence for infant communion in the first millennium of the Church is incontrovertible, that fact does not justify the practice.  Although is it possible to construct a general theological argument for infant communion based on the nature of the Means of Grace and of faith, such an attempt founders on 1 Cor 11:27-31.  We must acknowledge the unique character of the each of the Means of Grace as it is presented to us by Scripture.  The apostolic instruction that it is necessary for a believer to examine himself (1 Cor 11:28;δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν) and discern the body of Christ (11:29; μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα), namely to recognize what it is and what it does in the vertical and horizontal relationships created by the Sacrament (1 Cor 10:16-17), precludes infants from receiving the Sacrament.  The exegetical data permits no other answer and so this must guide our practice instead of theological extrapolations. [endnote 26]

The Lutheran Confessions lead us to the same conclusion.  Lutherans confess that we administer the Sacrament to those who know what it is and why they need it.  We do not give it to the person who "does not believe these words or doubts them" because in such a case he or she is "unworthy and unprepared, for the words 'for you' require all hearts to believe" (SC VI.9-10). They say, "Now it is true, as we have said, that no one under any circumstances should be forced or compelled, lest we institute a new slaughter of souls" (LC VI.42).  Instead it is to be given to those who have "faith in these words: "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins" (SC VI.9-10).  Infants are incapable of doing this, and so they should not receive the Sacrament until they are able to do so. Holy Baptism is not the Sacrament of the Altar, and vice versa.  We cannot operate as if the requirements for the two sacraments are mutually interchangeable.

While infant communion is to be rejected, this does not mean that children are to be excluded from the Sacrament.  It is entirely commensurate with the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the practice of the Church – including the Lutheran Church - for children to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.  I will treat this point in more detail when we arrive at the Reformation period.

Next in the series:  The weird and wacky history of Confirmation: When there was no Confirmation in Rome


Endnotes –

[1] Ray Laurence, Simone Esmonde Cleary and Gareth Sears, The City in the Roman West c. 250 BC – c. AD 250 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011), 204.

[2] Leonel L. Mitchell, Baptismal Anointing (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1966) , 26.

[3] Aidan Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991, 28.

[4] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 28.

[5] J.D.C. Fisher Christian Initiation: Confirmation Then and Now (Chicago: HillenbrandBooks, 1978), 28.

[6] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 26 (emphasis original).

[7] Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now, 33.

[8] E.C. Whitaker, Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy (rev. and ed. Maxwell E. Johnson; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003), 9 (hereafter DBL).

[9] DBL 9.

[10] Ante-Nicene Fathers 3.692 (hereafter ANF).

[11] ANF 3.221

[12] G.W.H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit: A Study in the Doctrine of Baptism and Confirmation in the New Testament and Fathers (2d ed.; London: SPCK), 161.

[13] Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now, 36.

[14] Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now, 38-39.

[15] DBL 13.

[16] Maxwell E. Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation (rev. and exp.; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007), 91.

[17] Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now, 41.

[18] Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now, 47.

[19] Paul Turner, Ages of Initiation: The First Two Christian Millenia (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000), CD-ROM source excerpts, Ch2, 2. Baptism and Eucharist.

[20] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, Ch2, 2. Baptism and Eucharist.

[21] David Holeton, Infant Communion – Then and Now (Bramcote/Nottingham: Grove Books, Ltd., 1981), 5.

[22] Paul E. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson and L. Edward Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 118.

[23] Bradsahw, Johnson and Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition, 118.

[24] See the detailed discussion in Bradshaw, Johnson and Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition, 1-6. See also the summary of the weaknesses in Paul F. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 81-83.

[25] Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation 101-110; Bradshaw, Johnson and Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition, 108-125.

[26] On the vocabulary and structure, see: Mark P. Surburg, "Structural and Lexical Features in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, "Concordia Journal 26 (2000): 200-217.  On the referent of "body" in 1 Cor 11:29, see: A. Andrew Das, "1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited," Concordia Theological Quarterly 62 (1998): 187-208, 197-208.  On the setting of the Corinthian Lord's Supper, see: Mark P. Surburg, "The Situation at the Corinthian Lord's Supper in Light of 1 Corinthians 11:21: A Reconsideration," Concordia Journal 32 (2006): 17-37.  For a helpful discussion of the issues raised by this text, see: Jeffrey A. Gibbs, "An Exegetical Case for Close(d) Communion: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 11:17-34," Concordia Journal 21 (1995): 148-163.

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FW: Gerhardt, the Cross, and the Art of the Hymn




Feed: Father Hollywood
Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2013 7:26 PM
Author: Rev. Larry Beane
Subject: Gerhardt, the Cross, and the Art of the Hymn


The past two weeks, we have sung glorious hymns written by the Blessed Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), whose works are filled with unmuted Christian joy in spite of his horrific experiences and life in this fallen world.

Gerhardt understood the Theology of the Cross, not through theoretical considerations, but in profound and relentless suffering of the effects of the fallen world: war, plague, and persecution.  And yet, his corpus of hymns are always upbeat and confident, bursting at the seams with hope and faith, with trust and delight in Christ.

In his 2004 recapitulation of the Rev. C.F.W. Walther's The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel called Handling the Word of Truth (p.49), the Rev. Prof. John T. Pless quotes the Rev. Dr. Oswald Beyer:

"In his last will and testament Paul Gerhardt reminds his only son, still living after his other children had died: 'Do good to people, even if they cannot pay you back because...'  The reader expects that the sentence will continue with: 'God will repay you.' However, Paul Gerhardt frustrates that expectation by continuing: '...because for what human beings cannot repay, the Creator of heaven and earth has already repaid long ago when he created you, when he gave you his only Son, and when he accepted and received you in holy baptism as his child and heir.'" (Oswald Beyer, "Justification as Basis and Boundary for Theology").

Also, here are some reflections from 2007 by the Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch.

Finally, here is a well-researched biography of Paul Gerhardt presented in 2008 by the Rev. Michael Berg:

What a treasure we have in our tradition of hymnody, centered on the cross and grounded in the real world in which we live and struggle and ultimately overcome by virtue of Christ, His cross, His grace, and the Gospel that is proclaimed in sermon and in song!

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